Friday, January 28, 2011

Part Two of how to make development execs hate you...

A shorter list this time. The screenwriting group I go to had another visit from a development exec, a lovely lady from Grand Pictures. I did ask her for her chief bugbears, and they were:

1. Lack of character development. Is this person even human? And if so, why don't they act like it?? If you're going to send a production company your script, the characters have to jump off the page.

2. People sending them stuff in Word. Why is anyone still doing this? It's under 100 quid for MovieWriter or Final Draft, and if all else fails, use a free programme like CeltX. Or make it a pdf file! Whatever idiot is sending scripts in Word should stop, pronto...

In other news, the Oscar noms. I'm going to read all the nominated scripts (Adapted and Original) and report back on them. They're all available online, folks!

First up, The King's Speech by David Seidler. This is a well-written script with good structure. The way it deals with the potential King's speech impediment and his unconventional therapist was brilliant. I did think it was a mite short, and the central idea is rather thinly-stretched. But it has a really feel-good ending, there are some great lines and Bertie, the main character, is a very sympathetic and interesting lead. I can see why Colin Firth is going to have to install a strengthened mantelpiece, and he should buy David Seidler a big drink once he collects the little gold man.

Then in the Adapted category, there's what I think is the one to beat, The Social Network. If Aaron Sorkin's script doesn't walk this category, there's no justice! It has everything: incredible structure with a clever flash-forward device. Well-written characters who belie the fact that they're wildly unsympathetic. A plot full of betrayal and intrigue, not to mention mouthwatering dialogue that just.. makes you proud to be a writer. I urge everyone to download this script and read it as an example of where we're all trying to reach. This is it. Once your script is as good as this, you've made it.

Here's a handy link to download some of the Oscar scripts. Happy reading!

Part Two of how to make development execs hate you...

A shorter list this time. The screenwriting group I go to had another visit from a development exec, a lovely lady from Grand Pictures. I did ask her for her chief bugbears, and they were:

1. Lack of character development. Is this person even human? And if so, why don't they act like it?? If you're going to send a production company your script, the characters have to jump off the page.

2. People sending them stuff in Word. Why is anyone still doing this? It's under 100 quid for MovieWriter or Final Draft, and if all else fails, use a free programme like CeltX. Or make it a pdf file! Whatever idiot is sending scripts in Word should stop, pronto...

In other news, the Oscar noms. I'm going to read all the nominated scripts (Adapted and Original) and report back on them. They're all available online, folks!

First up, The King's Speech by David Seidler. This is a well-written script with good structure. The way it deals with the potential King's speech impediment and his unconventional therapist was brilliant. I did think it was a mite short, and the central idea is rather thinly-stretched. But it has a really feel-good ending, there are some great lines and Bertie, the main character, is a very sympathetic and interesting lead. I can see why Colin Firth is going to have to install a strengthened mantelpiece, and he should buy David Seidler a big drink once he collects the little gold man.

Then in the Adapted category, there's what I think is the one to beat, The Social Network. If Aaron Sorkin's script doesn't walk this category, there's no justice! It has everything: incredible structure with a clever flash-forward device. Well-written characters who belie the fact that they're wildly unsympathetic. A plot full of betrayal and intrigue, not to mention mouthwatering dialogue that just.. makes you proud to be a writer. I urge everyone to download this script and read it as an example of where we're all trying to reach. This is it. Once your script is as good as this, you've made it.

Here's a handy link to download some of the Oscar scripts. Happy reading!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

JDIFF 2011 is go....

It seems like yesterday that the last Jameson Dublin Film Festival was on, but another year has rolled round and it's back.

I went to a bloggers' briefing tonight at Tripod before the official launch and Grainne Humphreys gave us a rundown of the best of the programme and what she's looking forward to. So here are her tips:

Richard Ayoade (Moss from the IT Crowd) directs the opening film Submarine, a wacky and offbeat comedy, apparently, starring Paddy Considine.

From a first-time director to a veteran: Francois Ozon directs the closing night gala, Potiche. It's what sounds like a thoroughly Ozon-esque comedy starring Catherine Deneuve as a dissatisfied bourgeois housewife who gets a new lease on life when her grumpy husband suffers a heart attack.

In between, there is a French season, as well as a series of film from Romania and Latin America.

An Italian comedy called Le Quattro Volte, which is meant to be very funny.

In terms of Irish films, there's David Keating's Wakewood, the first Hammer Studios film in a very long time. It's "The Wicker Man set in Cavan" according to Ms Humphreys. That I have to see! Paddy Jolley's stylish The Door Ajar will also be worth a look, as will Paul Fraser's My Brothers.

Documentaries: there's Werner Herzog's batshit-crazy sounding (well what did you expect?!) Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Shimmy Marcus' documentary Good Cake, Bad Cake, The Story of Lir, about a Dublin band billed as the next U2 who never really made it. The band members from Lir and Marcus himself will be in attendance, and the band will play a gig afterwards. They will then go on tour with the film!

There are also a number of Hollywood flicks, including Emilio Estevez's thoughtful family drama The Way, starring his dad Martin Sheen (father and son will both be at the screening). Jaume Collet-Serra is following up Orphan with the doppelganger action thriller Unknown, starring Liam Neeson. Matt Damon is on the run (again), this time with Emily Blunt in the cool-sounding adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Adjustment Bureau.

A number of classic movies will be screened, including The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, West Side Story and African Queen. The Usual Suspects will be screened ("in a non-film location") with Kevin Spacey in attendance.

The film I'm probably most looking forward to, cos I'm a geek, is The Tingler. William Castle's 1958 gimmick-classic about unlucky folk with monsters growing on their spine. If they get scared and don't scream, their spines get snapped. And Castle promoted the film by putting electric shock devices into random cinema seats. Cue the screaming...

In other activities, games guru Charles Cecil will be taking part in a panel and turning a movie into a game. There's a festival directors panel. And there will be a screenwriting panel, with Brian O'Malley, Brendan McCarthy, Thomas Hefferon and Carmel Winters, which I for one am stoked about.

And very lastly, I will of course be going to the Surprise Film (assuming I can get a ticket!)

There was then a launch party with free drinks, and Maura Tierney popping up to say a few words. I was ridiculously excited to see Abby from ER in the flesh!

Bring on the festival - times are hard and I need to spend some time at the movies...

JDIFF 2011 is go....

It seems like yesterday that the last Jameson Dublin Film Festival was on, but another year has rolled round and it's back.

I went to a bloggers' briefing tonight at Tripod before the official launch and Grainne Humphreys gave us a rundown of the best of the programme and what she's looking forward to. So here are her tips:

Richard Ayoade (Moss from the IT Crowd) directs the opening film Submarine, a wacky and offbeat comedy, apparently, starring Paddy Considine.

From a first-time director to a veteran: Francois Ozon directs the closing night gala, Potiche. It's what sounds like a thoroughly Ozon-esque comedy starring Catherine Deneuve as a dissatisfied bourgeois housewife who gets a new lease on life when her grumpy husband suffers a heart attack.

In between, there is a French season, as well as a series of film from Romania and Latin America.

An Italian comedy called Le Quattro Volte, which is meant to be very funny.

In terms of Irish films, there's David Keating's Wakewood, the first Hammer Studios film in a very long time. It's "The Wicker Man set in Cavan" according to Ms Humphreys. That I have to see! Paddy Jolley's stylish The Door Ajar will also be worth a look, as will Paul Fraser's My Brothers.

Documentaries: there's Werner Herzog's batshit-crazy sounding (well what did you expect?!) Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Shimmy Marcus' documentary Good Cake, Bad Cake, The Story of Lir, about a Dublin band billed as the next U2 who never really made it. The band members from Lir and Marcus himself will be in attendance, and the band will play a gig afterwards. They will then go on tour with the film!

There are also a number of Hollywood flicks, including Emilio Estevez's thoughtful family drama The Way, starring his dad Martin Sheen (father and son will both be at the screening). Jaume Collet-Serra is following up Orphan with the doppelganger action thriller Unknown, starring Liam Neeson. Matt Damon is on the run (again), this time with Emily Blunt in the cool-sounding adaptation of Philip K. Dick's The Adjustment Bureau.

A number of classic movies will be screened, including The Bridge Over the River Kwai, Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, West Side Story and African Queen. The Usual Suspects will be screened ("in a non-film location") with Kevin Spacey in attendance.

The film I'm probably most looking forward to, cos I'm a geek, is The Tingler. William Castle's 1958 gimmick-classic about unlucky folk with monsters growing on their spine. If they get scared and don't scream, their spines get snapped. And Castle promoted the film by putting electric shock devices into random cinema seats. Cue the screaming...

In other activities, games guru Charles Cecil will be taking part in a panel and turning a movie into a game. There's a festival directors panel. And there will be a screenwriting panel, with Brian O'Malley, Brendan McCarthy, Thomas Hefferon and Carmel Winters, which I for one am stoked about.

And very lastly, I will of course be going to the Surprise Film (assuming I can get a ticket!)

There was then a launch party with free drinks, and Maura Tierney popping up to say a few words. I was ridiculously excited to see Abby from ER in the flesh!

Bring on the festival - times are hard and I need to spend some time at the movies...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Cuchalainn - hero or villain?

I went to a really interesting workshop today on Irish myths. I've been addicted to reading about myths and archetypes for the last few months (thank you, Joseph Campbell) so this sounded right up my street. It's organised by Sandy Dunlop from the Bard Summer School and Camille Donegan of Alive-o Productions and took place - fittingly - in the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham.

Padraig Pearse would have been proud. Over the next six months, the group will be examining and deconstructing Irish myths and the plan is to develop a performance piece out of the work to be performed in the Museum later this year.

The biggest myth of all is of course, Cuchulainn. But a very good question was posited which was: is it right that he should be our central male archetype? Is he a character to aspire to? Sure, he's a great warrior and a fighter. He gets things done (never thinks things out in advance). But he's also a sociopath who acts like The Terminator and destroys everything he touches. He kills his best friend and his own son. His story is tragic, painful and full of loneliness - it's tough being the best warrior EVER.

The biggest message we got from Cuchalainn's myth is that he is not in control of his own destiny - even though he's really trying to control everything. He's also a character who never really becomes an adult. What does this say, if anything, about Irish culture? That we hero-worship him?

It was all interesting stuff and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next six months bring in terms of the other myths. They have timeless relevance and should be told, re-told and tooled into other stories. And at times like these, they are pieces of coded folk wisdom that may provide the answers we so badly need.

Cuchalainn - hero or villain?

I went to a really interesting workshop today on Irish myths. I've been addicted to reading about myths and archetypes for the last few months (thank you, Joseph Campbell) so this sounded right up my street. It's organised by Sandy Dunlop from the Bard Summer School and Camille Donegan of Alive-o Productions and took place - fittingly - in the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham.

Padraig Pearse would have been proud. Over the next six months, the group will be examining and deconstructing Irish myths and the plan is to develop a performance piece out of the work to be performed in the Museum later this year.

The biggest myth of all is of course, Cuchulainn. But a very good question was posited which was: is it right that he should be our central male archetype? Is he a character to aspire to? Sure, he's a great warrior and a fighter. He gets things done (never thinks things out in advance). But he's also a sociopath who acts like The Terminator and destroys everything he touches. He kills his best friend and his own son. His story is tragic, painful and full of loneliness - it's tough being the best warrior EVER.

The biggest message we got from Cuchalainn's myth is that he is not in control of his own destiny - even though he's really trying to control everything. He's also a character who never really becomes an adult. What does this say, if anything, about Irish culture? That we hero-worship him?

It was all interesting stuff and I'm really looking forward to seeing what the next six months bring in terms of the other myths. They have timeless relevance and should be told, re-told and tooled into other stories. And at times like these, they are pieces of coded folk wisdom that may provide the answers we so badly need.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

There's only a few votes in it....

In this, the last days of a shambolic government that's like something out of a Marx Brothers film, I thought it would be fun to think of 5 great movies about politics. Yes, they do exist.

So tonight Brian, on what might be your swansong, here they are for your delectation:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A political innocent comes to the Capitol full of ideals, and meets with corruption and dirty dealings. What it has to say about politics is as relevant now as it was in 1939 and should be studied by all wannabe representatives. All this and one of Jimmy Stewart's best roles.

The Candidate
Robert Redford in his 70s prime as a would-be liberal politician with a killer smile. "Too Handsome. Too Young. Too Liberal. Doesn't have a chance. He's PERFECT!" screamed the tagline for a film that doesn't flinch at showing the nastier side of politics.

Bob Roberts
The Nineties version of The Candidate, Bob Roberts is an even more cynical affair, tracing affable folk singer-turned-politician Bob's journey from bar room to Senate, with dirty trick after dirty trick befalling his opponents along the way.

Dave
The president can die and a double take his place, and no one notices, not even the First Lady? This is a film that's alarming in its believablity, not least for the scene where Dave invites his accountant friend Murray Blum to the White House to help him balance a budget. "THE Budget?" Murray gasps. Maybe the two Brians should have tried this...

All the President's Men
You can't have a top five about politics and not mention this one. The ultimate film about corruption and secrecy, ATPM now seems to depict a more innocent time. The Watergate burglars would now simply install a tiny pinhole camera and most likely, get away with it. In these ever more paranoid times, how do we know who's watching? (In Brian Cowen's case, Caoimhin O Caolain, apparently).

Any more Deep Throat gems I've missed?

There's only a few votes in it....

In this, the last days of a shambolic government that's like something out of a Marx Brothers film, I thought it would be fun to think of 5 great movies about politics. Yes, they do exist.

So tonight Brian, on what might be your swansong, here they are for your delectation:

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
A political innocent comes to the Capitol full of ideals, and meets with corruption and dirty dealings. What it has to say about politics is as relevant now as it was in 1939 and should be studied by all wannabe representatives. All this and one of Jimmy Stewart's best roles.

The Candidate
Robert Redford in his 70s prime as a would-be liberal politician with a killer smile. "Too Handsome. Too Young. Too Liberal. Doesn't have a chance. He's PERFECT!" screamed the tagline for a film that doesn't flinch at showing the nastier side of politics.

Bob Roberts
The Nineties version of The Candidate, Bob Roberts is an even more cynical affair, tracing affable folk singer-turned-politician Bob's journey from bar room to Senate, with dirty trick after dirty trick befalling his opponents along the way.

Dave
The president can die and a double take his place, and no one notices, not even the First Lady? This is a film that's alarming in its believablity, not least for the scene where Dave invites his accountant friend Murray Blum to the White House to help him balance a budget. "THE Budget?" Murray gasps. Maybe the two Brians should have tried this...

All the President's Men
You can't have a top five about politics and not mention this one. The ultimate film about corruption and secrecy, ATPM now seems to depict a more innocent time. The Watergate burglars would now simply install a tiny pinhole camera and most likely, get away with it. In these ever more paranoid times, how do we know who's watching? (In Brian Cowen's case, Caoimhin O Caolain, apparently).

Any more Deep Throat gems I've missed?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Is your script a problem child?

Ah Act 2, my old nemesis. Does anyone else find this? You write a first act that you're really happy with. Act 3 cracks along. It's the stuff in the middle that's the problem.

If my scripts were lives, there'd be terrible teens involved. And I'm not alone - many, many produced films I watch have the same problem. Everything falls apart about forty minutes in after a great start, and then the writer pulls it all together again by the end.

So what's to be done about second act woes? Here's the sentence that's been helping me: start early to ensure that your child grows properly. If there are problems in Act 2, then the origins of those issues are right there in Act 1.

Maybe your main character isn't set up right. Do we get a sense right away of who they are? Maybe the catalyst to send us into the next act isn't strong enough. Or the tone of the script isn't established from the start.

Whatever the issues, trace them back. Because the best way to fix your second act is to nail your first act.. The rest will follow...

Is your script a problem child?

Ah Act 2, my old nemesis. Does anyone else find this? You write a first act that you're really happy with. Act 3 cracks along. It's the stuff in the middle that's the problem.

If my scripts were lives, there'd be terrible teens involved. And I'm not alone - many, many produced films I watch have the same problem. Everything falls apart about forty minutes in after a great start, and then the writer pulls it all together again by the end.

So what's to be done about second act woes? Here's the sentence that's been helping me: start early to ensure that your child grows properly. If there are problems in Act 2, then the origins of those issues are right there in Act 1.

Maybe your main character isn't set up right. Do we get a sense right away of who they are? Maybe the catalyst to send us into the next act isn't strong enough. Or the tone of the script isn't established from the start.

Whatever the issues, trace them back. Because the best way to fix your second act is to nail your first act.. The rest will follow...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

After you Write, Treat....

Treatments - the most maligned writers tool. At least as far as most of the writers I know are concerned! Any mention of them and people start rolling their eyes and saying what a hassle they are to write. I wasn't wild about them either, until recently.

I'm currently doing a big rewrite of a script with a producer who's interested in getting it made. This was a project that I always had doubts about - there was something not quite right about the script but I couldn't identify what needed to be fixed. The producer had the answer: do a treatment for it.

So I did. The thing is, you can't hide from anything in a treatment. If someone's motivation doesn't make sense, or if a plot twist is too unbelievable, this becomes obvious. Whereas in a script, it's often really hard to see these issues.

We're currently on draft five of the treatment and it's gone from 11 pages to 16. There's dialogue in there and everything. The idea is that when it's done, the redraft will be a breeze to write because all the heavy lifting will be over.

The whole process has made me think about how I approach a script. I'm developing another script idea at the moment and before I put serious pen to paper (well, finger to mouse), I'll be doing up an outline and pulling it apart for days or even weeks. It's going to save me a lot of time down the road if I take the time to think it out now.

So my prescription is as follows: before you write, outline. And once it's done, treat...

After you Write, Treat....

Treatments - the most maligned writers tool. At least as far as most of the writers I know are concerned! Any mention of them and people start rolling their eyes and saying what a hassle they are to write. I wasn't wild about them either, until recently.

I'm currently doing a big rewrite of a script with a producer who's interested in getting it made. This was a project that I always had doubts about - there was something not quite right about the script but I couldn't identify what needed to be fixed. The producer had the answer: do a treatment for it.

So I did. The thing is, you can't hide from anything in a treatment. If someone's motivation doesn't make sense, or if a plot twist is too unbelievable, this becomes obvious. Whereas in a script, it's often really hard to see these issues.

We're currently on draft five of the treatment and it's gone from 11 pages to 16. There's dialogue in there and everything. The idea is that when it's done, the redraft will be a breeze to write because all the heavy lifting will be over.

The whole process has made me think about how I approach a script. I'm developing another script idea at the moment and before I put serious pen to paper (well, finger to mouse), I'll be doing up an outline and pulling it apart for days or even weeks. It's going to save me a lot of time down the road if I take the time to think it out now.

So my prescription is as follows: before you write, outline. And once it's done, treat...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Give yourself a pat on the back! Go on!

At the start of 2011, rather than rush headlong into resolutions, I thought I'd go over the stuff I achieved during 2010. I highly recommend that you do this, because sometimes we forget or overlook how much we've done and you can't write up a list of accurate resolutions without acknowledging your past glories.

I was feeling a bit depressed about 2010 - job moves and house renovations dominated the second half and I let a lot of writing stuff slide. But still, some stuff got done, and here's my list of those things:

· Producing my first short film (based on Colin Scuffins script Prodigal Son). This taught me a ton. It was like going to college and studying film production, except it was four months instead of four years.

· I finished At All Cost and got to second place in the StoryPros thriller category with it. This was great, especially considering it’s a very early draft.

· I got to the second round of the Kaos film writing competition with Heartstoppers, which was even more professional validation for this script.

· I got to the quarter-finals of PAGE Awards with Star on the Run.

· I wrote the short script Tiger and really intend on trying to get it made this year.

· I was chosen as an official blogger for the Dublin Film Festival and wrote blog posts during the whole festival for their website.

· I attended the Galway Film Fleadh and met loads of new contacts, including a producer that I’m currently developing a film with.

· Attended a two-day producers course with Martin Daniels in October.

That's my list, now let's see yours. This is a very non-Irish thing to do, but for once, toot your own horn! If you

don't.... no one else will ;)

Give yourself a pat on the back! Go on!

At the start of 2011, rather than rush headlong into resolutions, I thought I'd go over the stuff I achieved during 2010. I highly recommend that you do this, because sometimes we forget or overlook how much we've done and you can't write up a list of accurate resolutions without acknowledging your past glories.

I was feeling a bit depressed about 2010 - job moves and house renovations dominated the second half and I let a lot of writing stuff slide. But still, some stuff got done, and here's my list of those things:

· Producing my first short film (based on Colin Scuffins script Prodigal Son). This taught me a ton. It was like going to college and studying film production, except it was four months instead of four years.

· I finished At All Cost and got to second place in the StoryPros thriller category with it. This was great, especially considering it’s a very early draft.

· I got to the second round of the Kaos film writing competition with Heartstoppers, which was even more professional validation for this script.

· I got to the quarter-finals of PAGE Awards with Star on the Run.

· I wrote the short script Tiger and really intend on trying to get it made this year.

· I was chosen as an official blogger for the Dublin Film Festival and wrote blog posts during the whole festival for their website.

· I attended the Galway Film Fleadh and met loads of new contacts, including a producer that I’m currently developing a film with.

· Attended a two-day producers course with Martin Daniels in October.

That's my list, now let's see yours. This is a very non-Irish thing to do, but for once, toot your own horn! If you

don't.... no one else will ;)